Germans celebrate 40th birthday of a very cheeky bee

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Germans celebrate 40th birthday of a very cheeky bee

Generations of Germans rejoice as the cartoon character Biene Maya (Maya the Bee) celebrates 40 years as a TV star on Friday.


The beloved bee was introduced to German TV in 1976 by Josef Göhlen, former head of the children’s and youth department of German public broadcaster ZDF.

Maya has also recently had a 3D-revival under the helm of ZDF-editor Marcus Horn, the rights to which have been sold in over 150 countries.

“The most exceptional thing may be that Maya the bee explores the world in this very playful way,” Horn explains.

“Maybe that's what fascinates kids - that there’s someone who’s allowed to do things that they can’t do.”

Originally though, the show was inspired by a book character that gained popularity during the First World War:

German soldiers were particularly fond of the bee, which first appeared in Waldemar Bonsels' book “Maya the bee and her adventures” in 1912, reports Die Welt.

A Biene Maya fan in costume. Photo: DPA

Years later, the series still revolved around the outspoken Maya and her bold ventures but this time she had a friend at her side - the anxious, nasal-voiced Willy the Bee. He routinely tried to keep Maya from putting herself in danger only to obediently trail after her in the end.

Through the odd couple's journeys, German children also had the chance to fall in love with characters such as Kurt the Dung Beetle, Max the Worm, or Flip the Grasshopper.

ZDF brought out 104 episodes up until 1980 alongside a Japanese production company and American cartoonist Marty Murphy and his team.

Over the years, other broadcasters started showing re-runs of the show, audio plays and comic books followed and in 2014 Maya was buzzing around on the big screen.

Now, the editor in charge Marcus Horn is planning a  second 3D-season with an extra 52 episodes after the success of the first one, which came out in 2013.

The show's ultimate success, though, is also due to its hugely famous theme song. Once the intro kicks in, almost any German will fervently sing along with the chorus:

“And this bee that I’m talking about is called Maya; little, cheeky, foxy bee, Maya…”

Former intro to the Biene Maja show. Youtube

While German pop icon Helene Fischer sings the current theme song, most Germans relate it to the original one by Czech singer Karel Gott, who has also performed side-by-side with German rapper Bushido.


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